Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report: “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo”

August 5, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today published its report “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo,” which addresses the human rights situation of persons detained at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The report concludes that the main human rights violations at the Guantanamo detention center are indefinite detention; the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; limited or no access to judicial protection; lack of due process; a discriminatory detention regime; and the lack of an adequate defense.

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said many times, and it reiterates once again, that the continuing and indefinite detention of persons, as occurs in Guantanamo, without the right to due process, is arbitrary and constitutes a clear violation of international law,” said the President of the IACHR, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. “The IACHR again reiterates its call to close the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo. We welcome the steps taken by the United States in that direction and at the same time urge the United States to redouble its efforts to achieve the goal of closing it once and for all,” she added. Along these lines, the IACHR report makes specific recommendations designed to encourage the United States to properly fulfill its commitments under international human rights law by taking the necessary steps to close the detention center.

For his part, Commissioner Felipe González, IACHR Rapporteur for the United States, underscored that “public security reasons cannot serve as a pretext for the indefinite detention of individuals without charge or trial.” In this regard, he indicated that “the report examines detainees’ access to justice and whether the judicial remedies available are adequate and effective. The conclusions convincingly show that presumptions and burden of proof have been used in a way that had a negative impact on access to effective remedies, resulting in a violation of the right to a fair trial and to judicial protection.”

According to declassified information from the U.S. Department of Defense, of the 779 individuals detained at Guantanamo, only 8 percent were identified as “fighters” for Al-Qaeda or the Taliban; 93 percent were not captured by U.S. forces; and most were turned over to U.S. custody at a time in which the United States was offering bounties for the capture of supposed terrorists. So far, only 1 percent of all prisoners ever held at Guantanamo have been convicted by a military commission; in two of the eight cases, the material support conviction was overturned on appeal by federal courts. The few ongoing prosecutions before military commissions have remained stagnant at the pretrial stage for several years.

“The United States must immediately release all detainees who are not going to be charged or tried,” Rapporteur González said. “And detainees who are facing prosecution by military commissions should be tried in federal courts. In terms of victims of torture and ill-treatment, the United States should ensure effective and complete redress, and should proceed to declassify all evidence of torture and ill-treatment and investigate all allegations of detainee abuse.”

The report also analyzes the fact that the government of the United States decided to open a detention center outside U.S. territory for the sole purpose of detaining aliens suspected of terrorism, all of whom are Muslim. Moreover, it designed a special system of military commissions to try them, without the procedural guarantees available in federal courts. “The United States gives these prisoners a different treatment than that given to other prisoners under its custody, whether U.S. nationals or foreigners,” President Antoine indicated. “Invoking the exigencies of the war on terror, the United States has justified the creation of this separate regime, characterized by indefinite detention, limited or no access to judicial protection, and trial absent basic elements of due process. The United States has provided no clear justification for the exclusive application of this regime to foreign Muslim men, which creates the appearance that it is targeting individuals based on their nationality, ethnicity, and religion,” she said.

“This report is an additional and hopefully final step in the monitoring efforts the IACHR has been carrying out since the first detainees were transferred to Guantanamo,” the IACHR President said. “And we say that we hope this is the final step, emphasizing the importance that the United States implement the recommendations contained in this report, in order to move towards the closure of this detention center, which has become a symbol of abuse around the world.”

Finally, the IACHR reiterates its call to the OAS Member States to consider receiving Guantanamo detainees in an effort to achieve the goal of closing the prison and to reaffirm the longstanding tradition of asylum and protection of refugees in the region.

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the OAS, and derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS in a personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 085/15